No Room for Alternative Facts in PR

Attention: This Article is Accurate and Truthful in Nature

Fake news has been a major source of contention with the recent political landscape. But the truth of the matter is, fake news has been around for thousands of years. According to Robert Darnton, author of “The True History of Fake News”, at times it was called “Ancedota” meaning dubious information, at other times it was called “canard”, meaning fake news printed to look like newspapers, or even sonnets written and sang to mislead their audiences. Yes, too, this misinformation was used to sway public opinion and defeat political opponents.

However, the environment surrounding alternative facts has changed. Nowadays, alternative facts spread like wildfire do to communications vehicles that allow sharing of information at a click of a button. In addition, the master minds behind fake news have found out how to make money from these lies. They have gotten smarter too, and camouflaged alternative facts to look like news headlines or advertisements.

According to “A Real Plague: Fake News,” a recent survey conducted by Weber Shandwick, fake news headlines fooled American adults 75 percent of the time in 2016, and 82 percent of Americans are concerned or greatly concerned about fake news. The survey respondents have difficulty in discerning between fake and factual news. They also place the blame of alternative facts on media, social media, attention seekers and political entities.

These beliefs pose a potential threat to the reputation and legitimacy of the PR field of practice.

How can PR professionals help combat the fake news battle? That’s easy, there’s a built-in defense for all practitioners to follow, the PRSA Code of Ethics. The Code calls for the free flow of accurate and truthful information at all times. PRSA recently released a statement about alternative facts, stating “Honest, ethical professionals never spin, mislead or alter facts.” PR practitioners make a living on trust. Trust by the media, the public and clients. Now more than ever, professionals must stress the importance of transparency and integrity in reputation management.

PR practitioners can influence the way people receive and spread information. Counsel clients, business partners and stakeholders to take charge: avoid clicking on fake news ads, review and research articles before sharing and gather facts from both sides before making any decisions.

Enlist in reputation management for the PR profession and for the code practitioners follow and believe in so deeply!


Stephanie Freeman is marketing and events manager Automotive Finance Corporation and the PRSA Hoosier Chapter advocacy chair. Connect with her on LinkedIn.